First, there is a large (front-page) article on the number of families who are choosing to leave the Amherst public schools (http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/178984/). I thought this article was really well done (very thorough, very balanced), though I do wish it had noted the number of parents in sort of high profile positions who are also leaving our public schools (former Regional SC members, principals in our public schools, override leaders, college presidents, etc.). I believe we need to acknowledge that our schools are NOT serving all children well, and we need to develop a specific plan to help our schools live up to their true potential of serving 'every child, every day' so that families will choose to stay in our schools. I was also really disappointed by Andy's comments at the end of this article -- those are precisely the types of comments that leave more people to leave, because they put the blame on the parents/kids who are leaving, and not on our schools, and thus don't give other parents hope that things will in fact change.
Second, there is a well done oped by the Bulletin editors on this issue (http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/178950/). I really agree with the statement that the investigation " ... must inform the changes the system undertakes in the years ahead." I had asked for exit surveys to be given to families who leave two years ago (2008), but Jere Hochman didn't support gathering this data. That is why I'm very glad the SC voted this year to require such surveys, so that we could indeed understand why some families are opting out.
Third, my monthly Education Matters column appears (http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/179004), which I believe speaks for itself.
Finally, the former Regional SC chair has a piece which largely criticizes me and Steve (http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/178948/), which I found somewhat ironic since Farshid supposedly resigned in order to allow the Regional SC to function in a more constructive way (which surely is harder to do when the former chair consistently engages in personal attacks on some current SC members in the press). I will add two brief additional points.
- In terms of Farshid's statement re. words said by me and Steve one night late in a parking lot -- I worked very closely with Farshid throughout much of last year (in my role as vice chair), and I considered him a close friend. We talked 4 or 5 times a day by phone (sometimes as late as midnight), we met frequently for coffee, and he attended social gatherings at my home. I therefore said things to him in confidence, assuming that those things would remain between friends and not be published in the Bulletin. Following a weekend in which the SC met for many hours in executive session (and in which things were said which Farshid knows well I can not repeat), both Steve and I spoke with anger one night, late at night, in a parking lot. We didn't act on those words in any way -- in or outside of meetings -- and thus I believe his comments are simply designed to create bad feelings towards us, and thereby erode community support for the much-needed changes we are trying to bring to our schools.
- Despite my disagreement with Farshid's choice to bring up these comments made late one night, I do really agree with his statement that "It is not fiscally or educationally prudent to impose curriculum changes that are not based on a professional analysis of all the available data." I very much share his hope that the new evaluation policy we've passed this year helps school administrators make decisions using all available data, including objective data and comparisons with other districts, instead of simply assuming that whatever our schools are now using (curricula, programs, etc.) is simply the best because we are in Amherst.